To All the Fucked Up Definitions of “Cool”

My first year of college, I made a friend who knew almost everybody in our handkerchief-sized campus. And while we sat at Stoners’ Spot, he sketched out the hierarchy of the popular for me.

In a nutshell, popularity in our college, if not our whole university, is “borrowed” and based off a complicated web of associations. Nobody cares about how smart you are, how talented you are or how funny you are if you aren’t already in the “In” circle – if you don’t already recite the daily, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ to the “coolest” people in campus. And there’s no way for you to be considered “cool” by every single other student of this “In” circle doesn’t publicly validate you.

Okay, sure. You need to be social for people to see how awesome you are. But since when did being cool become an exclusive commodity that you can only acquire if you know the so-called popular people in college? And why the fuck are we this obsessed with the idea of extroversion being the superior personality type?

My university thrives on its reputation of “encouraging” extracurricular activities and non-academic talents. And even though admission is based upon a ridiculously high academic performance, students are regularly called out for being ‘nerds’ if they attend too many classes. You’re very, very far from “cool” if you actually care about your grades. Or if you don’t study last moment like every other student. Do you even have a life if you’re not part of the dance, music or drama society?

College life is supposed to be about exploring your capabilities, right? It’s about discovering who you wanna be? Wrong. Based off everything I’ve seen, it’s about being boxed into the same old categories and spending way too much time figuring out how to become the top dog. It’s about pretending to care about things just for the sake of caring about something because you’re so goddamn afraid of wasting time doing nothing in your three years of undergrad. It’s about the very real, very unvoiced horror of wondering whether who you really are might not fit in with the rest of the world and then scrambling to imitate others so you’d be seen.

And that’s how the world works in general. You can keep telling yourself that you’ll be more true to yourself when you graduate, that it’s all just about surviving college but you’re lying. You don’t need to find a box to fit into, you already know that. You already know that you are cool. And no self-proclaimed “cool” person you meet at Stoners’ Spot can help you find a place on any shit-show hierarchy in college.

There is no hierarchy. We’re all just a bunch of child adults kicking around, trying to be heard. And as long as you don’t make your voice extra sugary or extra deep, as long as you just say it like you really, really want to, you’re cool.

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